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June 3, 2014

Novak Djokovic


7‑5,7‑6, 6‑4

THE MODERATOR:  Questions in English.

Q.  It went smoothly to some extent in straight sets.  How did you feel on the court?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  It's never smooth against Milos or against any server of his caliber.  There is few guys that are serving this well.
Next to him is probably John Isner and Karlovic.  Those three guys have immense serves that have great power and great precision.
When he's on, it's very difficult to do anything except be mentally strong and consistent and try to wait for the opportunities.  When they are presented, you should better use them.
You know, it was important to get the first set under my belt.  You know, the second one was very close.  The third one I felt more comfortable.
But all in all, even though it was a straight‑set win, few points here and there kind of decided the winner.¬† That's what I was expecting.¬† I knew what was waiting for me on the court.¬† I knew that he's going to serve and I'm not going to have many opportunities, but when I do have them, I should use them.
I have done well.

Q.  It's kind of been an open issue this is your chance to have a career Grand Slam.  You had a great match last year with Rafa.  This is the second week of the tournament.  Assess your feelings.  Are you thinking much about this?  How do you like your chances?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I try to focus the intention only on the next match, so I don't think about eventual final.  I think about only Gulbis.  He's been playing really well.  He's confident.
But again, I like my chances because I have had now couple of great weeks on the clay courts from Rome to now last ten days here in Roland Garros.
Two days off will definitely serve well now to recover, to work on some things on the practice courts, and then come back strong and prepare for the next challenge.

Q.¬† A lot of times people associate clay courts with guys who run and get every ball back.¬† Guys like Isner and Raonic have done well on the surface well too lately.¬† When you play someone like Raonic ‑ tough here and in Rome ‑ what do you see he does to make the surface work for him, too?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Well, you know, serving 225 down the T, doesn't matter which surface it is.  The ball goes equally fast (smiling.)
But, again, he moves quite well for his height.  He hits the forehand from every corner quite powerfully.  He puts a lot of pressure on the opponent's serve.  Then you start to think, should you go for your serves or should you just mix it up and try to serve kind of second serve as first, kind of kick it and get into the rally.
Because if you miss a couple of first serves, he can put some pressure on you, make double fault, and the break is gone.¬† That's why these kind of matches are mental in the end of the day.¬† You have to beat ‑‑not to allow yourself to get frustrated too soon.
Otherwise, you know, the match is gone in a second.  Him and Isner, they have been performing quite well on this surface, even though clay is considered as the slowest surface.
The courts here and in Rome are faster than some other clay courts in other tournaments.  Maybe the ball bounces a bit higher and it allows them to penetrate through the court a bit faster.

Q.  You played with Gulbis, met Gulbis when he was 15.  He just said before that he remembers you being very professional, doing stretching while he was going out for discothèque and things like this.  What do you remember of him?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Should I say what I remember of him?  (Laughter.)
I know you want to hear that.
I know he loves to joke around always.  We always had a very good relationship.  There was couple of rooms, I think five, six rooms that were inside of the tennis complex of the Pilic Academy where we and five, six, seven, eight players stayed.
We didn't share the room but were just in the room next to each other.  So we spent a lot of time practicing and also, you know, a lot of hours playing cards, watching TVs, so we were good friends.  You know, we know each other really well.
He was always somebody that was very enthusiastic about everything in life, you know, and you could see he wanted to enjoy it with the open arms (smiling), if I can say that politically correct.
He was very talented.  He was always very talented.  I remember came out in the practices swinging fully through the ball.  Didn't really care too much.  You know, he respected his coach.  He respected, you know, the players that he liked.
The others, he just crushed on the court on the practice and the tournaments as well.  He always had this confidence about him that you could say that even though he was 14, 15 at the time that he's going to become something big.
He had a game and he also had no fear.  He was coming out on the courts, as I said, always being perfectionist, always trying to improve his game, you know, never been too happy about the game, always seeking to get better.
You know, there were times when he liked to work.  There were times when he didn't like to work so much so that Niki had to make him work.
With me, it wasn't such a hassle for working, but generally we always got along really well on and off the court.

Q.  I have a similar question.  If you say Gulbis is very talented, let's say gifted, it's always a discussion, what is talent.  So what do you think was your talent to be far ahead of him over the years?  Why did it take him so long to get there?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Well, we all know that talent maybe was few decades ago in our sport one of the major factors that brought success to the tennis player, but not anymore.  Talent is something that, as you mentioned before, is a gift that you have, that you're born with for a certain sport, but is a minor part of, let's say, a puzzle that everything needs to get, you know, together for you to be successful player.
That is obviously hard work, big discipline, professional, and also understanding how to balance professional and private life.
So all of these things play an important role in a career of a tennis player.  Maybe those things didn't get together for him in last couple of years, but now they are.
But as I said, back in 2008 I think he played quarterfinals here, so there was a period of several years where he wasn't managing to find his consistency with results or maybe dedication to the sport.
But with G√ľnther Bresnik, I know he's been working now and he's very professional and somebody that has been around the tennis tour for a long time.
So probably he helped him from the mental point of view how to approach every practice and every day, and it pays off in the end.

Q.  Was it your talent you had, like, let's say, how you approach your job with 15 already?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Well, the talent was a base or let's say a source of motivation in me and in people that I was working with at the beginning of my career, early childhood.
After that, it was just the love for the sport and also being surrounded with right people who have ingrained in me this kind of professionalism, you know, commitment, and the right discipline, you know.
The rest is obviously, you know, family and my personality, trying to balance everything in life.  You know, a lot of things have to get together.  Tennis is individual sport.  It's very complex.  It's very demanding sport in terms of balance between private life, professional life.
It's very long season.  It's the longest season of all professional sports.  So in order to be a top player, in order to be successful you have to be committed to the sport maybe more than some other sports.
You know, I'm not regretting anything in my life.  This sport has brought me so much positives.  I'm just grateful to be playing it.

Q.  You haven't played Gulbis since Indian Wells three years ago, and you beat him very easily then.  I don't know if you have been watching him this tournament, but if you have, how different of a player do you think he is and in what ways has he improved?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Well, as we just talked about, he had these few years, say, absence from the high level of tennis.  He was going up and down.  He wasn't really committed to probably work as hard and then, you know, the results were there.
But now that's changing for him.  You can see the last 12 months with his results, he's now, what, top 15, 20 in the world?  After this tournament, even better.  He has won against Roger, won against Tomas.  I saw the match against Roger.
He plays really well.  I mean, he has a huge serve that, you know, if it goes in, you know, it can give him a lot of advantage over the opponent.
Of course he's very aggressive from the baseline.  He grew up on clay.  We played mostly in the academy.  I remember those days we played on clay courts a lot.  So even though he's a tall guy, he knows how to move, how to anticipate on the court.
He's definitely going to be aggressive and going to go for his shots against me.  I know that.  That's his style.
I'm going to try to get myself prepared with the team and get the right tactics.

Q.¬† What do you think about the match between Ga√ęl Monfils and Andy Murray tomorrow?¬† You know, both of them really well.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I think it's going to be a great match, very entertaining match.

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